If you’ve been camping, you probably know that one annoying friend who, at the campfire, armed with an acoustic guitar, tried to belt out the renowned hit “Cough Syrup” by Young the Giant. Chances are it probably sucked, but chances are you may have sung along with them. “Cough Syrup” is such a catchy song that even to this day, I can’t help but yell along in my car or shower when it's thrown on shuffle. The issue with a hit like that though, is how a relatively new band can top themselves thereafter. Young the Giant hasn’t. With three albums out they have, debatably, yet to produce a song that’s as catchy and memorable as their 2011 hit. That’s not saying they haven’t made good music; their most recent album, “Home of the Strange” (2016), is full of great jams, most notably “Amerika,” “Something to Believe in,” and “Silvertounge.”
Hip-hop music in New Mexico is at odds with itself. On one hand there’s quality, much like Wake Self: a conscious and confidant ABQ rapper who often acclaims feminism, denounces consumerism, and unabashedly reps his home state while doing so. On the other hand, we have Discogs.com’s #2 worst band of 2014, Brokencyde. To say the least, there’s discrepancy. Matthew “Vez” Chavez is currently beneath a saturated tier of rap musicians budding from the 505 but his musicianship speaks in decibels.
2016 was a year of hit-or-miss experimental albums, be it from Kanye’s “The Life of Pablo” to Bon Iver’s “22, A Million” fans were generally split down the middle in either loving or hating mainstream contemporary releases. From what I could tell, 2016 could have been a period of forgettable music yet, out of nowhere, A Tribe Called Quest woke up from their 20-year hibernation with the release of their new album “We Got It from Here...Thank You 4 Your Service.” The album was critically acclaimed and full of sociopolitical commentary from the insane election year to the Black Lives Matter movement, garnished lightly with tributes to rapper Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor who passed away on March 22 of 2016 — in the middle of recording the album.
In 2007 the New Yorker published a controversial piece by Sasha Frere-Jones titled, “A Paler Shade of White,” in which he mourned the lack of miscegenation across racial boundaries and specifically that of black musical influence into white indie rock. The piece opens with an anecdote of a performance by Arcade Fire, a band he liked. “I realized that the drummer and the bassist rarely played syncopated patterns or lingered in the low registers. If there is a trace of soul, blues, reggae or funk in Arcade Fire, it must be philosophical; it certainly isn’t audible. And what I really wanted to hear, after a stretch of raucous sing-alongs, was a bit of swing, some empty space and palpable bass frequencies.” Though he added the caveat that “there’s no point in faulting Arcade Fire for what it doesn’t do,” it was enough to move Will Butler, a composer and core member of the expansive band, to rebut the characterization with an audio file in which snippets from the band’s songs were juxtaposed against music from various black musicians, as well as that of older white artists, like the Beatles and the Clash, who took clear influence from those traditions.
The allure of post-punk revival band Interpol is hidden beneath the monotone vocals and dense ostinatos that comprise pretty much 90% of their material. They don't rely on complex rhythms or guitar solos to stay interesting, which is pretty righteous all things considered. An Interpol song is a captivating lecture on love, relationships, isolation, self-worth, and groove. But, as goes the classroom, there's not much head banging more than there is a lyrical dissection of thoughtful poems. The fact of the matter is that Interpol remains interesting after twenty years of, essentially, doing the same thing. The four members that to thank are: Paul Banks, Carlos Dengler, Daniel Kessler and Sam Fogarino. One of the most recognizable squadrons in indie music, in part due to their aesthetic. Donned with four black suits and the occasional cigarette, Interpol jump started the heart of post-punk in a time when the genre direly needed innervation.
Editorial Note: These articles and images have been revisited (and some reprinted) as part of our "Editors' Picks" issue. The pieces can be viewed by clicking the links listed below. This issue was created with the intent of showcasing some of the Daily Lobo's best work from Aug. 2016 until now. Our news, sports, culture, photo and music editors — along with our Editor-in-Chief — selected some of the most memorable pieces and moments to compile this year-in-review style issue. Although we were unable to include everything in print, more of our favorites can be found online and in our archives. The Daily Lobo staff
To be considered a legend in hip hop, an artist must earn their name next to the greats such as 2Pac, Nas, Jay-Z and The Notorious B.I.G. With the release of DAMN. (2017), Kendrick Lamar may have snagged an ever-lasting spot amongst royalty. Knowing Kendrick was now part of the upper-echelon of hip hop, I knew that his DAMN. Tour was not going to be one to miss. On July 12, 2017, in Glendale AZ, Kendrick Lamar kicked off his arena tour with the help of fellow rappers DRAM and Travis Scott. I was lucky enough to be there, and it was jaw-dropping. Although the show was a complete success, it’s worth noting that the night started on a sour note. DRAM took to the stage first with songs off his record, Big Baby DRAM. But DRAM was uninteresting; no one past the first two rows felt the music.
Following what many longtime festival-goers considered to be a lackluster showing in 2016, veteran fans were cautiously optimistic about Sasquatch!’s 2017 iteration. Towards the end of last year, they announced that renowned, reclusive R&B star Frank Ocean would be one of the upcoming year’s headliners, a promising booking that appeared to signal an impending rebound. But the momentum stagnated in January, as all mentions of Ocean disappeared across Sasquatch!’s social media pages, and the lineup was nowhere to be seen. In due time, Sasquatch! sent an email announcing that the festival lineup would be released the upcoming Monday at midnight — a curious decision, as it would seemingly make more sense to release the lineup when fans and publications were actually awake for the announcement.
For six years, I have eagerly anticipated the release of a new 'Foxes record. As the years waned on, I worried that that record would never come, and I would be stuck with just one perfect album. Prior to listening to Crack-Up, a nervous apprehension washed over me. With two amazing albums already under their belt, the band faced enormous pressure going into this latest release. Would this album live up to six years worth of expectations or fall flat on its face? Fleet Foxes have managed to exceed all expectations while doing so in completely unexpected ways. Helplessness Blues, as cohesive as it was, contained songs so strong, each could stand on their own apart from the others. Crack-Up, on the other hand, has a much more synthesized structure, essentially making the album seem like one big song. The tone and inspirations of the album are also much more dark and damaged.
The Mountain Goats, the primary musical project of singer-songwriter John Darnielle, have been plenty of things throughout the years. Working with a cast of collaborators, the most consistent for a time being a Panasonic boombox, they started out in the early 90s as an acoustic lo-fi project, releasing albums and cassettes on various small labels. The songs were as terse as they were tense, compressing moments into little sonic shells, carrying the threat of exploding at any second. At the turn of the century their sound collapsed and expanded, and when the Mountain Goats signed to 4AD they added more elements to solidify themselves as a cohesive project, working through variations on themes new and old. It’s always been Darnielle, and, as any fan will tell you, it’s always been much more.
The two TMG albums released in the middle of the decade, The Sunset Tree and Get Lonely, are as notable, but in a different way. There might be a greater stylistic difference between each of the three previous records—first recording in a studio, then embracing a full band—but the transition between WSABH and The Sunset Tree is perhaps just as jarring. Both center around autobiography, but the first is a character sketchbook cloaked in the language of verisimilitude. The two albums that follow are clear as day, and dark as what comes after clarity. Talking to Marc Maron on the WTF podcast, Darnielle observed that “in many ways [The Sunset Tree is] the first Mountain Goats album ... it’s like, all this stuff before that, sort of feels like a study for when I was able to tap something.”
As the enigmatic former lead singer and bassist of Pink Floyd, Roger Waters’ solo career has been defined by a struggle to distance himself from his legendary band, with varying degrees of success. On his latest release, Is This The Life We Really Want?, Waters manages to create a prog-rock labyrinth for the modern day, complete with the conscience protest anthems that made Pink Floyd famous.
Naked Giants are perhaps the most professionally unprofessional band on this side of the Mason-Dixon line. They dress like thieves reclaiming a burned down Burlington’s and play their instruments like habit-formed aesthetes. They “feel” instead of “think.” I’ve concluded that’s their dirty secret. A Naked Giants song is a portrayal of instinct: there’s no room to think, overthink, or, like, stress-out, man. They provide the groove and direction to take the audience on a trip, a safari tour of just how many noises three instruments are able to make.
What is the music of mourning? What is the passing of a loved one, put to record? There are scores of albums on death as a general idea, but how often does one attempt to explain death with a time, a place, and a person? How often does rock music dare to fumble with the idiosyncrasies and messiness of one specific loss? When we think of albums that seek to honor someone’s memory, we don’t usually think of rollicking, power-chord driven hardcore. Touché Amoré set out to change that with their 2016 album Stage Four.
Once the first domino falls in a budding Mew phase, lead singer Jonas Bjerre will quickly become the narrator of your dreams. His falsetto embeds itself beneath the skin and, viciously, the surrealist lyrics will seed your mind to bloom shortly thereafter. And that’s just the vocals folks: this full-fledged, four-piece used to be filled out with Bo Madsen on lead, Johan Wohlert on bass and Silas Utke Graae Jørgensen on drums. They’re an experimental force of nature whom, after twenty years, have perfected the act of bludgeoning pop music over the head. Mew’s eighth album, “Visuals,” is the best pop album of the year so far – bar none.
Nearing the tail-end of their most recent tour, the Pennsylvania-based Balance and Composure visited Launchpad to promote Light We Made, the follow up to the 2013 breakout The Things We Think We’re Missing. The latter brought with it near universal acclaim. Having never seen the band live or even heard their music before, I decided to immerse myself in the groovy alt-rock sound that has won the band so much acclaim. Honestly, I was not too impressed. They find themselves among a myriad of other rock bands today who fail to shatter any barriers or create something truly innovative. They are more than musically capable, but, much like the group’s name, there is little that makes them stand out from the rest.
Treehouse Basement formed in 2014 and have since been consistently slapping Albuquerque in the face with catchy, desert-fused indie-pop. Their take on contemporary music has a habit of animating audiences, quite often evoking people to move and groove regardless if they want to or not. You may have found the Basement in various venues across the Albuquerque as they've established their sound by taking cues from Two Door Cinema Club, Interpol and early Mutemath. I coerced Treehouse to come talk about how life is in the Basement; all things music, recording and ‘90s cartoon shows.
One of the real privileges of listening to Perfume Genius, aka singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas, is that: as you progress through all four of his albums, you begin to feel like you’re watching somebody grow up and become comfortable with who they are. Listening to his 2010 debut album Learning, I can hear all of his insecurities bubbling to the surface, an insular man speaking his mind for the first time. On his latest record, No Shape, the butterfly has left the cocoon and fully spread its wings. Hadreas’ signature croon remains prevalent on every track, but a new kind of explosive confidence penetrates through.
A few weeks ago, I interviewed a personal idol of mine. He’s the former lead singer/guitarist of the rock band, Oceansize — which broke up in 2010 — who has since released a solo record and started an experimental electronic group. Prior to Biffy Clyro’s live show in Phoenix, in which he plays supporting live guitar, I emailed him and got a response, agreeing to an interview. This dude is Mike Vennart and, though I often try to avoid being overdramatic: his music renovated my life. Because Oceansize came to me during a dark time, and during that time, six years ago, their music helped me acknowledged perspectives that ultimately brought a sense contentedness.
In the mystical and often disorienting universe of Meow Wolf, everything seems to come out of a Dalí painting. That is, if Dalí was tripping on acid. So it’s all the more interesting that, in this colorfully frenetic oasis, we are presented with a band whose primary color scheme appears to be denim, with light shades of brown. This band is Whitney. One of the best bands to come out of 2016, Chicago indie-rockers Whitney carve their style out of a number of different influences. Combining the feel-good jams of The Band and soulful lyrics reminiscent of John Denver, duo Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek manage to make music that sounds very sentimental, yet appealing to a younger crowd. Personally, I listened to a lot of classic rock when I was younger. The problem with that is, eventually, I listened to pretty much all the music from the genre. After a while songs that were once exciting now bore me, and it seems like the same twenty songs would make an appearance on classic rock stations. Light Upon the Lake, Whitney’s debut record, ended up landing at #2 on my favorite albums of 2016 mostly due to the fact that their throwback sound was much more relatable for me.